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Extra varsity funding won’t breach spending limits

Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe says the Cabinet approved amendments to national budget allocations to fund universities will not breach previously announced spending limits.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, recently announced that government has set aside an additional R6.912 billion to support university education. He said government had listened to the concerns raised by university students last year during their march against university fee increases.

The funding will cover the zero percent fee increment agreed for the current academic year; clear accumulated debt owed by National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students and prevent the accumulation of such debt over the medium term, Minister Radebe said on Thursday.

He was addressing the media in Pretoria on the outcomes of a special Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday.

“As an immediate measure, R2.33 billion has been allocated to resolve the shortfall in operational funding for universities as a result of the agreement on a zero percent fee increment for 2016,” Minister Radebe said.

He said for the 2016/17 financial year, government has reprioritised R2.543 billion of State funding to be allocated to NSFAS to provide loans to assist 71 753 identified students, who qualified but were either partially or not funded at all over the past three academic years.

“A further R2.039 billion will be allocated to NSFAS in the 2016/17 financial year to support unfunded or underfunded students still in the university system in 2016 to complete their qualifications,” he said.

Minister Radebe said the funds were additional to the R10 billion that NSFAS will administer in the 2016 academic year.

“Government is committed to providing post-school education for all academically deserving students that is free at the point of delivery for the poor and the working class, within fiscally sustainable limits.

“Cabinet calls on students, workers, academics and university administrators to work together with government to achieve this goal,” he said.

Minister Radebe condemned any actions that would disrupt learning or create unreasonable as well as unachievable expectations that are counterproductive. He said violence and intimidation were not acceptable.

President Jacob Zuma has also announced the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry to look into the broader issues affecting the funding of higher education. The commission will look at, among others, the feasibility of making higher education and training free in South Africa.

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